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Fiona Apple


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

bluesy, evocative pop

Status:

Most recent album, The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)

See also:

Fiona Apple's site

Wikipedia's entry on Fiona Apple

Comparisons:

Bonnie Raitt, Joan Osborne. (lissener@wwa.com)

Beth Gibbons of Portishead in her vocal style. (Neile)

Sade. (kcd@cray.com)

Covers/own material:

Own; very occasional covers

General comments:

Deep, fairly bluesy voice, above-average songwriting, individual sound (though I wouldn't call her bluesy-ethereal sound exactly without precedent). She's young in years but has a full, mature voice. I like her music a lot, and I love that on her first album (Tidal) she played in a bluesy style few artists are exploring right now. How much you like her probably depends on how much you like blues-inspired music. Since then she's moved towards more electronic music, but her work is still individual and interesting. I think she has a lot of ability and a pretty unique talent. (Neile)

You might like Fiona—personally I decided I don't. Comparisons to Tori Amos are way off the mark in my opinion—they are both women singing and playing the piano, but there is no comparison of quality of their work. To me Fiona seems a lot like a creation of Sony's marketing division. Don't get me wrong—she's not bad, it's just that she's very young and the hype and push and the slick packaging she receives seems way out of proportion to her actual ability at this point. Then again, this is just me. A lot of people do like her.... (afries@zip.com.au)

Fiona Apple writes bolder songs and delves into a less avidly mined area (jazz, blues, torch song) than most mainstream (read: best selling) artists. Musically, Fiona Apple has a little more to offer in the lyrics department—"Sleep to Dream" was a great lyric, a well-timed paean to independence. (valerie@smoe.org)

Fiona is different like Jewel but still very young and very beautiful (like Jewel) will use that sexiness (like Jewel) and go on and do OK.... (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

I'm completely flummoxed as to why anyone would say she can't sing. I think her voice is perfect for the songs she sings, and the songs she writes and sings are *great*. Anyone who hasn't heard the entire album has no room to comment on her talent, because they're probably commenting more on a video they saw. Anyone who *has* heard Tidal and still doesn't think she's talented...well, sorry, they're wrong and their opinion has probably been colored by her media persona (or more accurately, the mistakes she's made in front of the media that were blown way out of proportion.) She's another one who's scarily talented at a young age. (vickie@enteract.com)

I was the one who brought her voice up, and I don't think I said she couldn't sing. I did say she sings off key...and she does. Not all the time, but enough to bother me and make me not like her cd, which I had for awhile. I don't know, there was probably something else pesky that bothered me too. I did think she was borderline "derivative", like someone who knew what she liked and listened to greats like Billie Holiday and managed to sponge it up and squeeze it back out. I listened to it *a lot* because folks whose musical taste I respect were into her. (Funny, but they don't talk about her anymore.) I guess it amounts to this: she's not my cup of tea. (Violaine@juno.com)

I have to go down as one who was totally in love with Tidal when it came out. She was an artist that I listened to and could not believe her age. It amazes me when people such as Fiona and Alanis Morissette are able to write about such serious subjects at 15 and 16. I know people my age who haven't got half of what they are saying yet. I found that it was the odd quality of her voice which attracted me to her. Slightly off kilter. I was more in tune with the emotion she was giving, than whether she sang every note in tune. I think rock is different from other music. Some artists go for a flat sound to their voice. Lene Lovich was extremely weird in her delivery, but I liked her a lot, as I do Fiona. I think that I look for something in a voice that sets it off from another. This is not opera.... (FAMarcus@aol.com)

I bought Tidal a while back and kinda liked it—then I saw her appearance on Saturday Night Live and was astonished by her *total* lack of singing ability and her listless persona. When she started appearing in the gossip rags, it was time to bail out, in my opinion. Yes, Tidal is really not a bad album, but I can't help but think that it was studio gimmickry and maybe limitless retakes until she got it right.... Whatever, she lost me very quickly like few artists have. (rkonrad@ibm.net)

When I've seen Fiona live, i've been greatly underwhelmed by her abilities at the keyboard...isn't she self-taught, not that that makes much of a difference? Aside from her posture and her hand positions, she just seemed to be playing in the same register and not doing much to distinguish herself. This could be a result of the confines of popular music structures, but I dunno...if you're a good pianist, you should be able to find a way to break out of that mold. (paul2k@aol.com)

Fiona's piano work is SO complex jazz. It's *real* jazz, she is using such intense rich chords with added 7ths and 13ths and all sorts of crazy shit like that, and her time changes...and God, it just flows like water. Perhaps she *is* popular with the YM-reading crowd, which of course means everyone on Ecto has to hate her ;p, and she *is* young and tends to stick her foot in her mouth, but I love her nonetheless. Her work connects with me on a much deeper level than the work of most singer-songwriters out there. (John.Drummond)

Though I liked Fiona Apple's first album I found her second not as much to my liking. Too uptight and angry. And I usually like angry. But not in the same way that Fiona Apple did it. I mean I like PJ Harvey's first two albums best. Talk about angry. But Fiona Apple's When The Pawn... Album? I dunno. It just didn't stick in my head. I'll probably track down her third one though, when it comes out. I like her enough to do that. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Comments about live performance:

I'd heard that Fiona's stage presence doesn't really go along with her songs, but I was unprepared for just how energetic and spritely her live performance would be. Perhaps some of her stage antics were a bit overdone; however I loved every minute of it. A highly enjoyable set. (kamesan@geocities.com)

She was great live, playing nearly everything from her hit debut album. She surprised me by not playing piano on about half of her songs, but that's okay. Great voice, and had quite a rapport with the crowd. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Fiona was another strange experience for me. My introduction to her was when she opened a holiday show featuring other artists. I hadn't heard any of her music or seen any videos. Anyway, I hated Fiona. She was horrible! She was such a blithering idiot on stage. (I accept others' comments that she is young and was thrown into the limelight, however, I didn't put any framework around her at the time. I just watched and listened, not to a teenager, but to a performer.) Anyway, I taped the show, and when I listened to it later, it really wasn't so bad. A few more listens after that, and I rather liked it. Once a friend lent me the album, it grew on me quickly.
     So there's an interesting case where seeing a live show first nearly ruined an artist for me. (neal)

I was quite impressed with Tidal as well, so I jumped at the chance to see her live in concert. I was front row center, watching her play and sing from about 10 feet away. Other than the fact that she was obviously daunted by the pressing crowd, she exhibited what I would consider a fair amount of personality—talking to individual members of the audience, cracking jokes, and even relating the stories behind a few of her most personal songs. Of course, she's about the same age as my daughter, so I guess I was distinguishing personality from teenage "attitude" out of habit. ;-)
     Her voice is untrained, certainly, but I thought she had a fair amount of natural talent and I was never annoyed or embarrassed by her singing. Believe me, I've heard some MAJOR acts exhibit bad vocals away from the protective environment of the studio. :-) Fiona sure didn't rely on FX for the live show I saw, I'll vouch for that. (Greg Dunn)

I was surprised to hear her play "Never Is a Promise," one of my favorite songs on the album, and she played it solo on piano. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

Any

Recordings:


Tidal

Release info :

1996—Clean Slate, Sony Work Group—OK 67439

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

High for those who like bluesy rock. (Neile)

Group members:

Fiona Apple—vocals, piano, optigan

Guest artists:

Jon Brion—guitars, vibraphone, tack piano, dulcitone, marimba, harp
Matt Chamberlain—drums, percussion
Dan Rothchild—bass
Patrick Warren—piano, chamberlain
Greg Leisz—pedal steel guitar
Greg Richling—bass
Danny Frankel—drums, percussion
Rob Laufer—guitar
George Black—drum programming
Sara Lee—bass
Larry Corbett—cello
Ralph Morrison—1st violin
Claudia Parducci—2nd violin
Evan Wilson—viola
Van Dyke Parks—string arrangement
Amber Maggart—harmony

Produced by:

Andrew Slater

Comments:

I liked this album immediately. The first song, "Sleep to Dream," pops open with a drumbeat reminiscent of Tricky, but there's no TripHop here: the sounds on this album bring to mind images of real instruments, and not the banks of electronics I picture with Tricky et al. Her voice is strong and fresh: clear without sounding thin, and bluesy without sounding rough. She'll remind you of Joan Osborne, I think, but there are also shades of Janis Ian, Holly Cole, Poe, The Story, and Carmel. Most of the songs are on the conventional side—she has not reinvented pop music—but there's a conviction to her voice and a substance and power to her melodies and arrangements which make Tidal a very, very enjoyable album. The songs range in style from blues-rock of the Bonnie-Raitt-via-Joan-Osborne school ("Sleep to Dream," "Criminal") to a soft jazz that would not be out of place on an Everything But the Girl album ("Slow Like Honey," "The First Taste"). If her style won't surprise you, her voice's layers and subtleties are somehow more refreshing with every listen. (lissener@wwa.com)

Still haven't made up my mind about this. It's different than I expected, more mature in both delivery and lyric writing than I thought it would be. Fiona's vocal style is very smooth and she really holds herself back compared to other ecto artists, but it makes for a refreshing change. My only real complaint is that all the songs seem to have the same plodding tempo—I wish they would have mixed it up a bit more, but that's a fairly minor complaint. (jjhanson@att.net)

I'm pleasantly surprised how much I like Tidal. Perhaps this has roots in that I used to be a rather big fan of Sade (not so much these days). But the styles are somewhat similar and both have such smoky, silky voices. More on the soul/r&b side of the spectrum, but that's OK by me. (kcd@cray.com)

I find her album falls just short of being excellent, I think the next one should be interesting. There are 2 or 3 brilliant songs on the album. I find "Criminal" absolutely addictive. Her lyrics sound like they were written by a much older and more experienced songwriter. (carnivore@bigfoot.com)

So far my favorite tracks are the more "upbeat" ones: "Sleep To Dream", "Shadowboxer", and "Criminal". As has been said in the past, she has a *lot* of potential. An amazing piano player, as well. (Matt.Bittner)

Though "Shadow Boxer" is a pretty good song I thought the rest of the album is much weaker, and I found the whole thing a bit too commercial and too slick for my taste.... (afries@zip.com.au)

I bought this cd not expecting to love it as much as I do. A good debut with flashes of brilliance. (mcurry@io.com)

This seems a strong, mature beginning. This may be bluesy soul but she's got a good touch with it. (Neile)

I didn't know if I would like this one, but it has really grown on me. The first half of the album has more stand-out tracks than the second half, which all blends into one laid-back, jazzy song for me. But still a very promising debut. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Lots of publicity doesn't usually bode well as far as good music goes in my experience; however, I finally had a listen to Tidal recently and consequently bought a copy for myself. It's really quite a classy album, vocals, lyrics, music and all! There's a bluesy jazzy tone to most of the songs, with lots of piano, and her voice is lovely and deep...if the hype put you off, ignore it and go and have a listen to this. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

I completely agree that Tidal was an amazing record; it still sweeps me away each time I listen to it. (maier@joynet.com.au)

A great debut. The three singles are strong songs, and the album shows a range of rock and pop ("Criminal," "Sleep to Dream") to blues-influenced ("Slow Like Honey") to poetic ballads ("Never is a Promise," "Shadowboxer"). The album isn't totally polished; there are some flat notes, but it's infrequent, and with one exception, pretty ignorable. I think Fiona has a lot of talent. She plays piano well, she sings with emotion, and her style is pretty unique. I just hope all the media attention and hype she received after Tidal doesn't spoil her future music. (JoAnn Whetsell)

tidal's groovy nonetheless. and I *like* fiona's voice. (burka@jeffrey.net)


When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right

Release info:

1999—Clean Slate/Epic Records—EK 69195

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Fiona Apple—vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Jon Brion—all other instruments on all songs except "Love Ridden"
Matt Chamberlain—drums, percussion on 7 tracks
Butch—drums, percussion on 2 tracks
Michael Breaux—woodwinds on 3 tracks
Greg Cohen—bass on "I Know"
Jim Keltner—drums on "I Know"
Patrick Warren—chamberlain (4 tracks), wurlitzer (2 tracks)
Randall Brion—string arranger for 3 tracks
Suzie Katayama—contractor/cello
Peter Kent, Charlie Bisharat, Eve Butler, Susan Chatman, Armen Garabedian, Berj Garabedian, Gerardo Hilera, Robert Peterson, Brian Leonard, Michele Richards, Edmund Stein, John Wittenberg—violins
Robert Becker, Denyse Buffum, Scott Haupert, Maria Newman—violas
Larry Corbett, Paula Hochalter, Daniel Smith—cellos
Mike Elizondo—bass
John Bainbridge—orchestrator, horn arranger for "Love Ridden"
Tom Biller—guitar, synth on "The Way Things Are"
Don Sweeney—copyist, contractor, horns: "Paper Bag"
Wendell Kelly, John Noreyko, Paul Loredo, Jean Martinelli—horns

Produced by:

Jon Brion

Comments:

second albums are unpredictable things. it's always interesting to see if people avoid the sophomore slump, expand their horizons, or stick to the formula that made them popular in the first place.
     So, Fiona has successfully navigated the path, and When the Pawn, despite its absurdly long title, turns out to be quite a good album.
     Of course, I never thought Fiona needed to get over the "girl with a piano thing" as someone called it, and I kind of miss the piano ballads. To me, the last 2 songs "Get Gone" and "I Know" are most like Tidal. But this album is bolder and more aggressive, the piano more immersed in the music and less prominent than before. Lots of blues and jazz influences still. After just one listen, I can't say much more than that, except that I like it a lot, and I think that if you like the single, "Fast As You Can" you will like When The Pawn... a lot too.
     Oh, and an A for the cover booklet. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I have to say that i'm very pleased with When the Pawn. I wasn't excited about it since I burned out on Tidal and she's been getting on my nerves in the press. But so far, this is better than Tidal. More edge, better musically, better lyrics. Very well produced. Standouts: "On the Bound", "Fast as you Can", "Paper Cup" "love ridden", "mistake". Really, this is one everyone should try. Better than i expected. I'm still not tired of it. (nnadel@hotmail.com)

Love the production/music on Fiona Apple's new album...very strong.... (Songbird22@aol.com)

I was really surprised by how much I liked this one. Amazingly enough, the single ("Fast As You Can") is actually the best song on the album: I absolutely adore it. The entire disc is strong: Jon Brion's production adds a lot of Aimee Mann touches that fit the music well. Much better than Tidal. (meth@smoe.org)

I really did not expect Fiona Apple to come out with an album this great in 1999. It blew me away during the first listen and for the last month or so has probably spent more time in my CD player than any other CD. (mcurry@io.com)

the new Fiona has owned me since last Tuesday when it came out... I've listened to it in its entirety at least twice every day. I cannot believe how much more incredible she got...just everything, it's all so much more confident...she's not quivering at all anymore, and it's incredible. I was so struck by Tidal's intricacies, and its fragility... but When the pawn yadda yadda just comes through with absolute strength, even when she's talking about being crazy...at least she knows it, and is using it in some semblance of a good way. The lyrics also show an even more mature verbal dexterity that I really am loving, and the piano work here is brilliant brilliant...mmmmmmm...wow, Fiona, you keep doin' me right. :D (John.Drummond)

When the Pawn... shows growth and it's wonderfully produced (not overdone, which is what I feared). It seems a little more focused than Tidal, and even stronger and perhaps even more inventive. I'm particularly impressed that this how she answered the success of Tidal: not by watering down the sound that made her individual as others have done (Jewel for example) but by simply taking her music to another depth (rather like Tori Amos did). Good for her. And what a fine album! (Neile)

Interesting album—hasn't sunk in yet. Like her lyrics, her voice usually takes a while to work for me though. (jjhanson@att.net)


Extraordinary Machine

Release info:

2005—Epic—8 2796-96530-2 9

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Fiona Apple—vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Jon Brion—marimba, bass
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson—drums
Mike Elizondo—Moog bass, bass, mellotron, fuzz clavinet, drum program, clavinet, programming, guitar, upright bass
Keefus Ciancia—keyboards
Abe Labriel, Jr.—drums, percussion, programming
Zac Rae—tack piano, pump organ, vibes, clavinet, chamberliain, farfisa, arp, string ensemble, marimba, Wurlitzer, celeste,opitgon, marxophone, keyboards
Jebin Bruni—Yamaha Portasouns, 360 systems, chamberlain
Glenn Berger—flute, sax
Brian Kehew—guitar, keyboards, fuzz guitar, farfisa
John Daversa—trumpet, horn arrangement
George Thatcher—trombone
Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Dave Palmer—keyboards
Brad Warmaar—French horn
Jim Keltner—drums
Benmont Tench—organ
Patrick Warren—orchestra arrangement

Produced by:

Mike Elizondo, 2 tracks Jon Brion

Comments:

Another powerful collection of songs, the songwriting and her vocal performance are again unforgettable. It's not so very different from the songs leaked earlier, some improvements, one song ("window") I think I liked a bit better before, but man it's a terrific overall: lively, emotive, great vocals, strong tunes, and lyrics. A standout terrific album in a year full of good albums. This was worth the long wait. Fiona Apple has proven she's got staying power. I had been listening to the earlier version of this album, and still prefer that one, but this version for me is still much more interesting and better than her earlier albums. (Neile)

I had been listening to the earlier version of this album, and still prefer that one, but this version for me is still much more interesting and better than her earlier albums. (tpierceint@yahoo.com)

Fantastic album of inventive pop. If you heard the leaked version, you need to get this album. If you didn't hear the leaked version, you need to get this album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

If you bought this and don't have the leaked version, you've got the wrong edition. I doubt I'm the only person who feels Apple made a tremendous mistake by tossing the Brion-produced tracks and replacing them. Buy the album anyway and show Fiona and Sony your support...but track down the leaked tracks for the better listening experience... (burka@jeffrey.net)

I quite like the final version, in fact I think I enjoy it more than the 'leaked' one, but that could be simply because the quality of recording is much better... But I totally agree both versions are worth having.
     According to fionaapple.org, Fiona stated the first cut was not shelved by her record company but rather by Fiona herself; it wasn't that they decided the record wasn't commercial enough, but rather she was afraid they would. The difference seems pretty academic to me. In any case, one thing everyone appears to agree on is that it was the 'leakage' that led to the eventual rework and release of this album—and that is the main point as far as I am concerned. (afries@zip.com.au)


The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)

Release info:

2012—Sony Epic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Fiona Apple—vocals, piano, celeste, field recording, keyboard bass, loops, percussion, stomping, timpani

Guest artists:

Charley Drayton—autoharp, baritone, bouzouki, cora, drums, field recording, guitar, marimba, percussion, producer, truck stomper, "voice of pain"
Sebastian Steinberg—acoustic bass, harmony guitar
Maude Maggart—high harmony (10)

Produced by:

Fiona Apple and Charley Drayton

Comments:

This album reminds me very much of Extraordinary Machine, though it definitely has its own flavour. It's powerful and emotional, and a gorgeous sequence of songs, starting with the strong and mournful "Every Single Night" through to the charming and evocative "Hot Knife." I can't imagine any ectophile not falling in love with this album. Highly, highly recommended. (Neile)

I am absolutely loving Fiona Apple's new album which I've been listening to since NPR had it up about a week before the release. I bought the iTunes deluxe version but have only listened to the main album yet, not the bonus track and the videos. It's definitely raw and at times ugly. I actually find musically it reminds me of her last 2 albums in a way I can't quite name. Some of the piano work. Melodies? Chords? Not sure. I've been meaning to post about the album on ecto. I thought people would be raving. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Many of the songs are just annoying as hell, especially "Hot Knife". (raschee@gmail.com)

One of the best albums of the year. (gordoja@optonline.net, stjarnell@yahoo.com, lasherboy@gmail.com)


Further info:

Fiona Apple contributes a cover of The Beatles "Across The Universe" to the Pleasantville movie soundtrack.

Why the ads?


Artists commented on by
Violaine @ juno.com

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Entry last updated 2013-06-09 18:12:53.
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